Montgomery neighborhood hopes federal funding will help fix sewage issue

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – A neighborhood in Montgomery is hoping that funds from the federal government can help them solve a problem they say they’ve been dealing with for decades- no sanitary sewage.

Some residents in the Madison Park community say for nearly 60 years their on-site sanitary sewer systems have them caused problems.

Residents said the old underground septic tanks frequently leak raw sewage. Not only is the foul odor a problem, it’s also a health hazard.

“We need to rid these septic tanks and get on the city services, so we won’t have to go through this problem,” said resident Maple Carter.

The majority of the Madison Park Community sits within the city limits of Montgomery, meaning most residents pay taxes to both the city and county. Just like the rest of the city, residents say they too deserve to be connected to the city’s sewage system.

“We’re paying first hand taxes for the city and the county, but we’re getting second hand service,” said resident Jerry Caldwell.

Another problem with the septic tanks is the cost associated with maintaining and fixing them. Residents estimated some repairs costing them anywhere between $500 and $3,000.

“Once it backs up, you have to call a professional to dig it up, and your average person out here don’t have that kind of money,” Caldwell said.

According to the Montgomery Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board, a little over 100 homes in the Madison Park community are connected to the city’s sewage system. Montgomery Water Works said that project was funded and installed by the city and county. The problem, however, is that not everyone got it.

“If they could come part of the way down, looks like they could come all the way down,” said resident William Burks. “It’s a dead end street, looks like they could have come down to the city line, that’s the services that we are promised and pay for.”

Montgomery County Commissioner Isaiah Sankey says a solution to the problem could come in the form of federal funding. The American Rescue Plan Act, a bill recently passed by congress to provide direct relief to Americans during the pandemic, is meant to help with this exact problem.

“Being here within the city limits of Montgomery, we think that for health and safety reasons they need to be on sanitary sewer,” Sankey said.

“We need to make sure some of those resources come to communities such as Madison Park to address some of the health disparities, and there’s no doubt that water and sanitary sewer is right at the top in terms of some of the permitted uses for this money.”

Alabama is set to receive more than $4 billion from the American Rescue Plan. Montgomery County is getting $44 million, and the city of Montgomery will get $42 million.

Where the money will be spent has not been decided yet, but Madison Park residents say they are hoping to get a portion of it.

“We expect that a rural neighborhood like Madison Park, who has been fighting over 50-60 years for sewage, should be respected enough to be funded,” Caldwell said.

“We are in the process now of making sure that we engage the citizens so that they can participate and have some say on how we spend this money to impact their quality of life,” Sankey said. “The government process can be very slow, but there is no excuse because we have received 50% of the money.”

Sankey said so far there has not been a formal discussion amongst the county for how they plan to spend the money.

The city of Montgomery said they have received their first round of funding, around 50% of it, which is somewhere close to $20 million dollars. They said they plan announce soon where that funding will go.

In March, Montgomery Finance Director Betty Beville told WSFA that ‚”Based on what we’ve seen in the act so far, the city will be able to spend the money on water and sewer and broadband projects.”

Montgomery Water Works said there are over 1,000 homes in Montgomery that have an on-site sewer systems.

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